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U.S. Ambassador to Mexico sends second diplomatic note following border confrontation

Associated Press Writer

MEXICO CITY- U.S. Ambassador to Mexico Tony Garza on Friday sent his second diplomatic note in three days following a border confrontation between the two countries, but appeared to heed a suggestion by the Mexican government to tone down his rhetoric.

In the second note, Garza reiterated a request "that the Government of Mexico undertake additional measures to prevent cross-border violence and to provide our government with any investigative results they may have related to the violence," according to a news release issued by the U.S. Embassy.

But the ambassador went on to say that "the United States and Mexico enjoy an excellent level of cooperation, and we view the government of President Vicente Fox as a partner and friend."

"Our friendship should allow us to be as open, honest, and straightforward with one another as I have tried to be about the challenges we face," Garza added.

The statement lacked the harsh tone of the note that Garza sent Wednesday, two days after Texas lawmen came face to face with armed men dressed in military-style uniforms who later unloaded marijuana from an SUV before setting the vehicle on fire. Texas authorities initially said they thought the men were from the Mexican military.

Although U.S. and Mexican officials later both agreed there was no proof the aggressors belonged to the Mexican military, Wednesday's statement from Garza said the incident "serves to bolster the arguments of those who seek the creation of physical barriers along our border" and "highlights the inability of the Mexican government to police its own communities south of the border."

On Thursday, Mexican Foreign Secretary Luis Ernesto Derbez called Garza's comments out of line and said his office would send its own diplomatic note asking the ambassador to tone down his rhetoric.

At the same time, Derbez suggested it was even possible that the armed men could have been U.S. soldiers or U.S. criminals, although he acknowledged that the Mexican government did not know which country the men came from.

The Embassy did not respond to that statement.

Monday's confrontation began 50 miles (80 kilometers) east of El Paso, Texas, when state police tried to stop three sport utility vehicles on Interstate 10. The vehicles made a quick U-turn and headed south toward the border, a few miles away.

Crossing the border, one SUV got stuck in the river, and the men with the Humvee tried in vain to tow it out. Then a group of men in civilian clothes began unloading what appeared to be bundles of marijuana, and set the SUV on fire before fleeing.

Both U.S. and Mexican officials have promised to investigate.

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